VOA Burmese Blog

October 7, 2011

Interview with Historian Thant Myint U

Thant Myint U’s latest book, Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia gives insight into the portrait of Burma and its two superpower neighbors. In an interview with Ronnie Nyein, Thant Myint U talks about his latest best seller (which is currently the Number One best seller in India) and the human rights situation in Burma.


VOA -Ronnie Nyein:

In your latest book, you suggest that we, the international community, have an obsession with human rights, while doing little to change the situation internally, pushing the junta inexorably into the arms of Peking ( China). Why do you state this?

Thant Myint U:

I think it’s extremely important to emphasize human rights. I don’t think it’s wrong for the international community, the United Nations and the United States to talk about and support human rights. What I am very critical about is the use of economic sanction to do that because I think the trade embargo, the aid cutoff and the economic sanctions have helped to increase Chinese influence in the country perhaps, is not such a good way and have other negative effects as well. I’m not against pushing human rights and am not against supporting human rights, but I am against using economic trade sanctions and embargo in order to do that and I think it may have had for the last twenty years been a big part of increasing the Chinese influence in the country for better or for worse.

Ronnie Nyein:

Does it mean Burma needs to abandon the human rights issue?

Thant Myint U:

No, not at all. I think, even now it’s more important than ever that the country moves in a democratic direction because I think a better government and a more democratic government would be the government that would be best in time to manage the relations between China and Burma. I think the problem is, for the challenges we have to find a clever way, in which to do that, and I think sanctions is not the right way. That doesn’t mean the issue of democracy is not important.

Ronnie Nyein:

In your book, you say, “A peaceful, prosperous and democratic Burma would be a game-changer for all of Asia.” Is it just a hope or do you really believe in it, and when do you think Burma will be a game-changer for all of Asia?

Thant Myint U:

I think we can all be hopeful and I think that there be a good step taking recently but I think we shouldn’t underestimate the huge challenges that our country faces ahead economically and in so many other ways. So I think we have (maybe) the beginning that starts and (maybe) we should all be hopeful in some way but I think the challenges are enormous, like if we are going to become a peaceful, prosperous and democracy, it is still going to take long time. But (maybe) we made a start.

Ronnie Nyein:

What do you want to say about your latest published book, Where China Meets India?

Thant Myint U:

Well, I think a lot of people in Myanmar would be interested in it because it’s not just about the politics and it’s not just about the crisis situations. But it’s a lot of history book, history of a country and history of two places that everyone in Myanmar (Burma) should know about which is North-East India and Yunnan. And these are our two neighbors, India and China, North-East India and Yunnan and very few people in the country know about this. I hope that in reading my book, fellows can learn a lot about who their closest neighbors are.

Ronnie Nyein:

So do you mean the main theme of this book is two foxes are fighting for the fish.

Thant Myint U:

No, not really. It’s not just about the China-India competition. It’s about these two areas, Yunnan and North-East India which has very deep historical connections to Myanmar (Burma), Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and their connections with old parts of Yunnan and the previous kingdom in Myanmar (Burma) as well. I think we have to rediscover these things at the time when India and China are much closer to Myanmar (Burma) than before. So we have to rediscover our own history and our own connections with these places as well.

Ronnie Nyein:

Thank you very much, indeed.

Thant Myint U:

It’s my pleasure.



  1. Where China Meets India? It is a very rare book on Geopolitical back ground book written by a Myanmar National.Proud to read the book which refers the important of historical values that really existed in the past between the world two major populated countries, China and India.
    It is necessary to understand the values of historical back grounds of a country to pursue interests of the people of that country and its geopolitics to neighboring countries.I believe the book will help to understand the stand of Union of Myanmar between India and China apart from other neighboring countries Bangladesh,Laos,Thailand.

    Comment by Tanaung Soe — October 22, 2011 @ 3:40 am | Reply

    • Thanks for reading our blog and for your input. Greatly appreciated. – Kaye

      Comment by voaburmese — October 28, 2011 @ 1:56 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks Saya Than Mint U and ko Ronnie, he became a true professional of Myanmar current affairs with optimistic views, historical references and standard language presentation.

    Comment by Thu Htut — October 24, 2011 @ 1:38 am | Reply

  3. Ko Thant Myint Oo
    Thanks a lot for your attempt to light up.
    Now it starts flickering the outlook in Myanmar and it is gaining the path to right way.
    I think your book has great influence to recent political changes in Myanmar and world’s opinion.
    Keep on your work and cheer.

    Comment by Tin — December 6, 2011 @ 9:16 am | Reply

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